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The Media United States

Digital Cameras Change War Photo-Journalism 694

prakslash writes "Back in 1945, it took three days between the time U.S. Marines raised the flag on Iwo Jima and the famous picture of the historic moment was published in all the newspapers. In 2004, it took barely an hour before the explosive photos from an Iraqi prison were seen all over the world. This drives home a defining fact of 21st century - the pervasiveness of digital photography and the speed of the Internet are making it easier to see into dark corners previously out of reach of the mass media. As reported in recent news, some of the most shocking Iraqi photos were not taken by photo-journalists but by soldiers and government contractors who used a digital camera, a CD burner and an internet connection to zip the photos around the world with an ease that has never existed before."
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Digital Cameras Change War Photo-Journalism

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  • Real Pictures? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cpt_Kirks ( 37296 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:01PM (#9096903)
    Pictures can be re-touched faster too.

    I don't think the pics out of Iraq are re-touched, but the ease and power of photoshop and such is something to keep in mind...

    • Re:Real Pictures? (Score:4, Informative)

      by xmorg ( 718633 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:06PM (#9096940) Homepage
      check the jpg comments to see if they've been gimp'ed. :)

      Those soldiers were stupid, like the photographing nanking

      First rule of war
      DO NOT photograph your warcrimes :P
      • Re:Real Pictures? (Score:5, Informative)

        by caseydk ( 203763 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:20PM (#9097005) Homepage Journal

        Uh... the interesting thing is that the pictures are from this past August. And 3 (or 5?) of the people invovled had already been referred to Article 32 (Court Martial) proceedings as of 10 days ago.

        So yes, they only took an hour to go around the world. But it took 8 months for them to make it into the public's eye anyway.
        • Re:Real Pictures? (Score:5, Informative)

          by demachina ( 71715 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @02:22AM (#9098431)
          Exactly right. The technology does exist to disseminate war information quickly but in fact Iraq has been one of the most poorly reported wars in a long time at least as far as the U.S. media coverage goes. You pretty much have to turn to the Arab networks to see any of the reality of what's been going on in Iraq. Those networks are, no doubt, slanted against the U.S. but the U.S. networks have been sanitized to the point they aren't giving any information at all about the real situation there. Pretty simply the American media has been completely cowed by the Pentagon through a variety of means.

          In particular most journalists have been embedded which gives them unprecedented access to military units but at the price that the military has gained massive control of what the journalists do and don't report and when. Since they live with the soldiers they were also showing a severe propensity to see things the soldiers way and not objectively. I'm guessing journalists who aren't embedded are having a real problem moving around Iraq or covering the story. You see very little truly independent coverage by American journalists. Embedding journalists was a stroke of genius by the military propagandists.

          Its also a simple fact of life most of the major media outlets have been incredibly reticent to cover controversial aspects of the war until recently for fear they will be branded unpatriotic, and that it will hurt their ratings which will hurt their advertising revenue. They know Fox will launch a broadside at them if they stray away from the party line that all is well in Iraq, and a host of politicians like Tom Delay will accuse them of treacherously undermining our troops in the field.

          If you look at the coverage of Vietnam those journalists actually covered the real war in all its gore and ugliness. It caused Vietnam to become extremely unpopular, but mostly because people actually saw what was happening. The Pentagon has gone to great lengths to make Iraq appear to be clean, neat, tidy and heroic, though only by covering up most of the blood and the brutality which only came to light because a private with a conscience made a report they couldn't ignore and someone else with a conscience finally leaked the pictures at great personal risk, just like Daniel Elsberg did with the Pentagon papers during Vietnam. If that person hadn't stuck there neck out to expose this I doubt you would have ever seen the pictures because the were classified and DOD would have buried them, while they court martialed some little fish.

          Its a simple fact that since 9/11 the Bush Administration decided to take the gloves off and have been condoning torture in myriad ways but with plausible deniability, by doing it at Guantanamo off shore, by sending prisoners to foreign governments like Syria and Saudi Arabia for torture, and by just looking the other way in Iraq and Afghanistan. The whole point of creating the term "enemy combatants" in place of POW's and in side stepping Geneva convention protections was precisely so that intelligence could be gathered by any means necessary. The soldiers in Iraq are probably being court martialed for being stupid enough to take pictures that destroyed plausible deniability more than for the actual torturing.

          Its important to note Cheney and Rumsfeld are experts at hiding brutality by the American military. They are the leading suspects for having buried the investigation of the 101st Airborne's Tiger force that went on a civilian killing spree in central Vietnam. That investigation died in the Nixon administration during Rumsfeld's first stint as Secretary of Defense and while Cheney was Nixon's chief of staff.

          Fact is since 9/11 the Bush administration felt they were facing a ruthless enemy and if they wanted to win they had to be equally ruthless. Unfortunately in Iraq, with the surfacing of these pictures, its undermined the only remaining rationale for the war in Iraq, that the U.S. was liberating the Iraqi's from Saddam's brutality when in fact the U.S. is being pretty brutal itself. Its hard for the Bush administration to rant against "Saddam's rape rooms" when proof has surfaced that the rape rooms are still in use today.
          • Re:Real Pictures? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Mekkis ( 769156 ) <cyranoei@hotmail.com> on Sunday May 09, 2004 @04:00AM (#9098723) Journal
            Definitely. You put it very well. The interesting thing about the Tiger Force was that although there was sworn testimony, the court-martial decided to suspend the sentence of these war criminals because it felt the citizens had already 'lost faith' in the nation due to the Vietnam War. Recently, when a reporter for NPR used FOIA to get documents on the Tiger Force, and ask why they were never prosecuted, the Pentagon referred to the war-crimes in question as "allegations". Sworn testimonies in a case where the defendants were found guilty are now "allegations". Thanks, Bush & Co.
            However, the topic's on the Iraqis being tortured by the U.S. military. Although the soldiers in question have 'come to justice' (see above for definition of justice), the U.S. military still 'outsources' a lot of its 'interrogation' of Iraqis to private security firms (AKA mercenaries), who practiced (and still practice) similar if not worse torture, are going around unpunished simply because they're not subject to the same regulations and laws as U.S. military personnel, and therefore are not subject to a court-martial. At worst there would be a civil suit, but then again any plaintiff'd have ot make it past all those high-priced lawyers spinning the facts...
            Looks like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld learned an important lesson: privatization of a crime means the accountability is no longer yours! Your consience is clear in the eye of the public. Wake up folks, the largest 'coalition' partner in Iraq is not the U.K., it's mercenaries!
      • Re:Real Pictures? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Cpt_Kirks ( 37296 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:20PM (#9097012)
        Those soldiers were stupid, like the photographing nanking

        OK, as a vet, I know of what I speak. I was pretty much a mercenary, in it for the college fund.

        Most (not all) people join the Army because they are poor and ignorant. It's a step up. IIRC, the bunch who took the pictures were reservists from West Virginia (I may be wrong). Reservists are not as well trained as regular Army troops.

        These people were no different than idiot teenagers who video themselves trashing houses, beating up bums and shooting people with paint guns.

        Except the teenagers don't wind up in Leveanworth...

        • Re:Real Pictures? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Most (not all) people join the Army because they are poor and ignorant.

          Kissinger agrees.

          "Military men are dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns for foreign policy." ~ Henry Kissinger
      • by Gorimek ( 61128 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:36PM (#9097691) Homepage
        I can't help wondering: If this was the stuff they didn't feel they could get into trouble for documenting, what may have happened when they tried to hide their tracks?
    • by Altima(BoB) ( 602987 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:28PM (#9097056)
      Yes, today's pictures can be photoshopped, but retouching war pictures or contriving them in general is hardly new. The famous Iwo Jima photo was not the actual flag raising right after the battle, but a re-enactment for the camera (God I hope I'm right about that, actually)

      And when war photography first came to the fore, during the US Civil War, photography was treated like paintings, and photos were taken after the battles with soldiers set up in posed, contrived positions because of the long exposure time.

      Just something to think about. The camera can be remarkable for conveying accurate truths, or for conveying convincing lies.
    • Re:Real Pictures? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Foolhardy ( 664051 )
      Sure most of the pics are re-touched. Tell me the blurryness in all those pictures was caused by something else.
      If that's ok, more airbrushing and editing isn't such a stretch.
      If they were just worried about showing nudity on the main page, they should at least provide a link to the originals. No, not because I get off on this kind of thing, but for the sake of offering the original unedited facts.
      • Re:Real Pictures? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bluGill ( 862 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:46PM (#9097157)

        Assuming (which if I understand the Muslim religion right this is correct) that these people didn't agree to the photo, and also have a prohibition of being seen nude, it is a second wrong to show them without retouching them. Forget about what happened and your concern of seeing it, and consider the rights of the victims. If these photos are available un-retouched, it must be only to those who have a genuine research need to see them, and then only if no other way of getting the information exists.

    • Re:Real Pictures? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lux ( 49200 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:39PM (#9097119)

      Umm... the pictures we're seeing on the news weren't taken three days ago, or a week ago, but months ago:

      http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20040505-030 51 7-9479r

      You know, when the pressure was on to find Saddam. This stuff doesn't happen in a vacuum.

      So I'm curious how this pertains to digital photography at all...
    • Re:Real Pictures? (Score:5, Informative)

      by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:37PM (#9097696) Homepage Journal
      "I don't think the pics out of Iraq are re-touched, but the ease and power of photoshop and such is something to keep in mind..."

      It's harder than it looks.

      It's a LOT easier to fake these photos just by setting up something convincing. Can't speak for the American ones, but the British gov'ts been criticizing the pics of their alleged abuses. The pics depicted the wrong guns, the wrong trucks, etc. Never mind Photoshop, pictures are just plain decieving.
  • PKZIP (Score:3, Funny)

    by Wingie ( 554272 ) <wlmuiNO@SPAMamherst.edu> on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:01PM (#9096904) Homepage
    No, you idiot! You use PKzip to zip images, not the Internet!
  • Consequence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Safety Cap ( 253500 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:02PM (#9096911) Homepage Journal
    As a result of the near-instant publishing of "sensitive" materials, expect to see the military prohibit digital cameras shortly.
    • Big time. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:16PM (#9096987)
      The Red Cross report didn't have an effect.

      The complaints didn't have an effect.

      The eye witness accounts didn't have an effect.

      A few pictures change everything.

      Most people have stronger reactions to pictures than they do to printed words. If the military is going to control the reaction, the military is going to ban cameras.

      When cameras are outlawed, only outlaws will have cameras.
      • Re:Big time. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by beamin ( 23709 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:39PM (#9097116)
        I'm reminded of Thomas Nast, the cartoonist whose work in Harper's Weekly brought down Boss Tweed in 1870s New York. Tweed's timeless lament: ?Stop them damn pictures. I don?t care so much what the papers write about me. My constituents can?t read. But, damn it, they can see pictures.? Looks like 130 years and ubiquitous public education hasn't done much to improve the masses, but the power of images remains.
      • How true.. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by js3 ( 319268 )
        a couple of months before this, some MP police guy in iraq was posting pictures to a message board about how they beat one of the iraqi contractors up because the intepreter said he didnt like americans.

        Many people who heard of these "abuses" just shrugged them off anyways but once they saw the pictures it all changed.

        It's sad to see those pics but you can also understand it when the iraqis are blowing up humvees everyday with roadside bombs. That same MP who posted pics etc posted one of his hummer after
      • Re:Big time. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hooya ( 518216 )
        wasn't that the whole idea of "embedded journalism"?
      • Re:Big time. (Score:4, Informative)

        by Jeremy Erwin ( 2054 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @10:55PM (#9097512) Journal
        The Red Cross doesn't publicly release reports, on the grounds that a future regime would probably denounce the IRC as traitorous spies. The implicated government is then supposed to correct its errors of judgment.

        "I am profoundly disturbed that the report was made available for publication without the consent of the ICRC. The ICRC fulfils its mandate to protect persons detained in armed conflict by addressing problems and violations through private approaches to the detaining authorities and their superiors. This long-standing practice allows us to act in a decisive manner, while ensuring that our delegates have continued access to detainees around the world.
        ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger

        Meanwhile, abusive governments may assert that journalistic coverage of POW treatment is itself a war crime.

        Prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity
        Article 13, Third Geneva Convention
      • Re:Big time. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:58PM (#9097816)
        If the military is going to control the reaction, the military is going to ban cameras.

        Yeah, that was the real problem in that prison: the cameras! If it weren't for those pesky cameras, there would be no crimes, right?

        Actually, Rumsfeld said something to this effect. They asked him how such a thing could happen, and his characteristically evasive answer was that the the security precautions need an update when everyone has digital cameras and phones and 21st century stuff. So that's the lesson for the Pentagon: we need to make new rules about cameras in the vicinity of sanctioned torture and rape.

        You think I'm being cynical? Look at Rumsfeld's own words from yesterday:

        We're functioning in a - with peacetime restraints, with legal requirements in a wartime situation, in the information age, where people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon.
        (source [myrtlebeachonline.com])
        • Re:Big time. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by pluvia ( 774424 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @04:06AM (#9098739)
          Thanks for linking to the source, cause my recollection of what happened was a bit different than your interpretation.

          Here's the quote with more context:
          SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-Maine: I think that rather than calling CBS and asking for a delay in the airing of the pictures, it would have been far better if you, Mr. Secretary, with all respect, had come forward and told the world about these pictures and of your personal determination - a determination I know you have - to set matters right and to hold those responsible accountable.

          RUMSFELD: Well, Senator Collins, I wish I had done that. I said that in my remarks.

          I wish I knew - and we've got to find a better way to do it. But I wish I knew how you reach down into a criminal investigation when it is not just a criminal investigation, but it turns out to be something that is radioactive, something that has strategic impact in the world. And we don't have those procedures. They've never been designed.

          We're functioning in a - with peacetime restraints, with legal requirements in a wartime situation, in the information age, where people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon.
          Rumsfeld is answering a question pertaining to why he didn't publicly preempt the media by divulging the crimes and the photographs himself rather than delaying their release until after the investigation.

          My interpretation is that in hindsight, he wishes he had, but that there were no extant military criminal procedures to do that, even though that would have been helpful in the court of public opinion. In the last paragraph (which you quote), Rumsfeld is summarizing the difficulty of managing traditional military protocol, including investigation (e.g. at the Pentagon) with the importance of US, Iraqi and, indeed, world public relations.

          There is certainly a balance which must be struck between military (or even police) action and public divulgence. Consider if it turned out (as it has in many other cases) that the reports or the pictures were fake. Divulging the pictures or the charges prior to an investigation into their veracity can greatly mislead the public. Then again, acknowledging the possibility that they might be true may help.

          I do not think it can be concluded that the solution Rumsfeld put forth is to "make new rules about cameras in the vicinity of sanctioned torture and rape". If anything, the context implies that the Senator's and Rumsfeld's solution is to develop procedures that will allow for some public divulgence prior to a completed criminal military investigation.

          A sibling poster questioned the "against the law" portion. I suspect Rumsfeld may be referring to the Geneva convention or other military rules of which I am unfamiliar.
          • Re:Big time. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Brummund ( 447393 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @06:47AM (#9099093)
            Well, as long as US officials deny the "detainees" the status as prisoners of war and thus the rights one gets with that status, I guess the Geneva Convention really doesn't bother Rumsfeld that much.

            When American soldiers get captured and tortured, beaten or whatever, US press and officials are all over the place shouting "Respect the Geneva convention", while the soldiers the US capture are denied that basic right.

            Also, it is strange that it doesn't bother the US public more that there are also employees of private companies responsible for torture and interrogation. Why don't the US just outsource the whole war to some company?

            It is disgusting.

      • Re:Big time. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:46AM (#9098045) Journal
        A few pictures change everything.

        Pictures can't be criticized as being biased (not much anyhow). Pictures can't be called liars. Legitimate pictures can't be disputed as being false (the truth of the matter can be proven quickly).

        Words can be spun. People's reports can be biased. Words can be taken out of context.

        Most people have stronger reactions to pictures than they do to printed words.

        I don't believe that at all. The pictures looked bad of course, but that was nothing compared to the report that went along with them. The pictures showed troops going over the line, but not as dramatically as the report does. The pictures don't show rape, sodomy, or any other of the serious tortures that took place.

        I think most people can understand the use of a little excessive physical force, and all the reports I heard previously never said anything more than that... Reports of "abuse" can be taken so many ways.

        The biggest reason pictures are important is because it gives credibility to the words from any source. So, until the pictures came out, the press was incredibly cautious when discussing abuses. Now that they have the pictures, they've finally put all the "words" out in the open.
  • Zip them.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:02PM (#9096913)

    Maybe someone should "zip" them a copy of the Geneva Convention?

    Maybe Bush should "zip" away and sign the Hauge treaty?

  • by multiplexo ( 27356 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:03PM (#9096917) Journal
    were that decided to take pictures of themselves committing war crimes. "Hey honey, let's put a bunch of naked Iraqis in a pig-pile and then have ourselves photographed behind it".

    This is going to totally change the rules, when you have 5 megapixel digital cameras that will easily fit in a BDU jacket pocket and when everyone has one you're going to see a lot of pictures that the Pentagon would rather you didn't, which is probably a good thing.

    • by bug506 ( 584796 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:15PM (#9096981) Homepage
      It's possible that the presence of the cameras actually made the abusers more harsh.

      How many times do you do stupid things in pictures that you wouldn't normally do? When someone points the camera at you and you make a stupid face--would you make the stupid face at that person if they weren't taking the picture?

      The same thing may have happened here. The abusers likely got caught up in the idea "this is funny! let's pose them THIS way! hahaha... now let's pose them THAT way!" If the cameras weren't there, the abuse still might have happened--but the abusers may have lost interest in it much more quickly--and thus spared some of the prisoners the abuse.
      • How many times do you do stupid things in pictures that you wouldn't normally do? When someone points the camera at you and you make a stupid face--would you make the stupid face at that person if they weren't taking the picture?

        Hmm, interesting theory. I wonder if I could walk around on the street and get random girls to flash their boobs for me just 'coz I have a TV camera. I could sell the videos over the 'net or something. Oh, wait...

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:04PM (#9096920)

    Because it provides at least a partial answer to "who guards the guards".

    A crack-down on possession is almost inevitable, since our society seems to prefer hiding problems over fixing them, but IMO any such crack-down will be lamentable.

  • Stupid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bobdabishop307 ( 751992 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:05PM (#9096927) Homepage
    Its bad enough US troops were doing this, but why were they even taking pictures of it? How stupid can you get, really...
    • Re: Stupid (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Black Parrot ( 19622 )

      > Its bad enough US troops were doing this, but why were they even taking pictures of it? How stupid can you get, really...

      • What's the average IQ of people who join a volunteer army?
      • Of all those who do join, which quartile provides the most prison guards?
  • by The Slashdotted ( 665535 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:05PM (#9096929)
    The Washington Post was allowed to post the Pentagon papers because they had a million lawyers behind them.. If we go to a mostly indy media, can the government harass editors and throw them into prison

    If you think this isn't possible, what's changed between now and the alien and sedition act of before?
  • by dethl ( 626353 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:06PM (#9096938)
    The first prison photos to be shown on CBS were taken last year [canoe.ca].
    • Not only did it take a long time, but there are tons of stories, not to mention video and pictures which still have not been reported by mainstream media, (at least in America). In Europe, and the Arab world, one sees very different images. As an example, take a look at this video of America's finest punish some Iraqi's for taking wood: DontLoot.wmv [punchbaby.com], or try google [google.co.uk]
      The question is not as much whether the images exist, it is whether gutless mainstream American media is willing to show it.
  • January (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msjacoby ( 528263 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:07PM (#9096944) Homepage
    WTF?! From what I understand, these abuse photos were taken way back in January! That's a lot more than an hour.

    What is being said about the shortening of the photojournalism cycle is still true, I just think this is a case of a bad example.

    The date of the pictures is a seemingly minor detail, but I think it's very important. Little innacuracies like this perpetuate broad misunderstandings of important events.

    • Re:January (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MBCook ( 132727 )
      I agree. Only my understanding is that the abuse happened last year, like November. What happened in January is that the investigation that started back in November (it was started by the Army, who was on the ball) ended. It's only in the last week that the media has picked up on this story. Reports from January issued by the Army mentioned this investigation or that charges had been filed or completed or something like that.

      It's only NOW that the media tells us about the breaking story, MONTHS AFTER IT HA

  • An hour? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by catbutt ( 469582 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:08PM (#9096948)
    You are saying that it was an hour between the time the photo was shot and it was "seen all over the world"? I'm calling BS.
  • Barely an hour? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:17PM (#9096993) Homepage
    Was nobody paying attention when Rumsfeld, Gen. Myers and the other Pentagon brass were testifying? The pictures were apparently taken in December 2003, copies passed to Army CID mid-January 2004 and copies were first in the Pentagon around the start of February. Gen. Myers even knew CBS had the pictures long enough to request they not publish, at least for the time being - the potential suppression of the media being something both Senatorial and Congressional committees were quite concerned over. So from the pictures being taken to being front-page news took closer to five months than "barely an hour".
  • by poptones ( 653660 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:20PM (#9097006) Journal
    The Iraqi prisoner pictures is about the WORSE example you could have chosen. I mean, they came out on mainstream media MONTHS after they were taken. Hell, they might as well have been taken with a 1940 vintage "Brownie" box camera and shipped to the US in a bottle...

    Meanwhile, many of us see movies weeks before they're even released to theatres and watch TV shows the day after they air via internet exchanges. Just the other day someone promised to post a TV program that had JUST aired "as soon as the encoding is done" which, in this case, was about four hours.

    I buy and sell shit via the internet in the blink of an eye. Just the other day I bought another CD from magnatune [magnatune.com] and the only reason it took me a day to get it was because of my hideously slow dialup connection and my insistence on getting the highest practical quality (FLAC).

    ALL these examples and the best you can come up with is to mention an "old guard" news source releasing months old photos only AFTER they had "cleared it with washington?" Yeesh.

  • Positive Effects (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ChronoWiz ( 709439 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:20PM (#9097009) Journal
    In Australia, the major political parties frequently hold party meetings that are closed to the public, and to cameras. Thanks to new mobile phones that now have video recording capabilities, a brawl [smh.com.au] at a national branch meeting of the Liberal Party was caught on camera for all the world to see. I'm sure a lot of people had to think twice about the image of the Liberals as a "mature and rational" party after that, I know I sure did.
  • by 0WaitState ( 231806 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:20PM (#9097010)
    Just one detail for the freepers out there--the abuses occurred (and the photos were taken) in fall 2003. This is months before the four American contractors were killed and had their bodies burned in Fallujah.

    So, if you want to put a biblical eye-for-an-eye spin on this, the Fallujah killings in March may have been revenge for the Abu Ghraib abuses, not the other way around as some folks are trying to insinuate.
    • I've seen a lot about how "But what about what they did in Fallujah!"

      What was done in Fallujah was the work of an angry lynch mob of young men in a dusty desert town. At least the mutilation part. Also I think Fallujah has suffered enough for the crime already. 600 Iraqis died and I don't think that mob was 600 strong. Besides many of those 600 were civilians and much of the town itself is now in ruins.

      What was done in the prisons was not the work of a few rogue soldiers but a systematic problem with t
  • Iraq (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EinarH ( 583836 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:20PM (#9097013) Journal
    Strange, the article doesn't touch upon some jounalistic dilemmas here. Why why haven't journalists/photograhers been taking more critical/newsworthy/live/dramatic pictures themselves?

    Could it be because they are in fucking Dubai enjoying all the nice official pictures on those plasma screens?
    Or could it be because they are busy sipping drinks at some Hotel in Baghdad?
    Or *gasp* could it be becasue they are [in]embedded with coalition forces?

  • by Jon Abbott ( 723 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:25PM (#9097038) Homepage
    If the U.S. military bans digital cameras from personnel, it might give the impression to the world that abusive acts on prisoners can continue without being discovered. If they don't ban cameras, odds are that more humiliating images will be released, inciting further hatred from the Arab community. I am glad that I am not the Secretary of Defense right now...
  • by superultra ( 670002 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:25PM (#9097040) Homepage
    Since the Starr Report, and perhaps before that the Oklahoma City Bombings, the internet has become one of the most important vehicles of communication in politics. 9-11 distributed information faster, more personally, and with far less repetition than the news channels. Howard Dean's campaign, while unsuccesful, nevertheless demonstrated the importance of a web presence for an aspiring politician, something that Kerry and Bush seem to have all but neglected.

    This scandel again demonstrates the increasing proliferation of the net and its significance in modern politics. What we're seeing here is like TV was to the Kennedy-Nixon debates or the Army McCarthy Hearings. This is another phase in the coming of age of the net as a viable medium at least as significant as print and TV, the "old media." And this coming of age will only continue, perhaps until The Next Big Thing in 50 years. These incidents, the Starr Report to the Iraqi Prison Pictures, should serve as a warning to any politician that would overlook the power of the net as a communicative tool. Those who embrace the web, like Kennedy with the TV camera, will flourish. Those who do not, will like Nixon regret they didn't.
  • by Nugbolz ( 646072 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:32PM (#9097081)
    "In 2004, it took barely an hour before the explosive photos from an Iraqi prison were seen all over the world."
    From an article in the Sydney Morning Herald,

    "For two weeks before 60 Minutes in America broke the torture story, it obeyed requests from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers not to run it for fear it would harm American interests in Iraq. The network ran it only after learning that other journalists would tell the story if it didn't.

    (see http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/05/08/10839114 61425.html)

    In this case, it was relatively "instant" only once the news was ALLOWED to be let out of the bag.
  • by Montreal Geek ( 620791 ) * <`gro.xobrebu' `ta' `cram'> on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:35PM (#9097103) Homepage Journal
    From MSNBC's take:
    While that step is obviously extreme by today's standards, perhaps the military, eager to manage public perceptions, might begin confiscating cameras of soldiers and contractors, Jenkins said.

    "I wouldn't be surprised if that happened," Jenkins said. "The images that are forcing the government to do things are coming out of very unlikely places."

    Auuugh! Cameras are good! It allows the people to check on what their army is really doing. Don't want embarrasing pictures? How about not acting in a way you'd be embarrased to have the world know instead of confiscating cameras?

    -- MG

  • by Linus Sixpack ( 709619 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:53PM (#9097181) Journal
    I remember the puffery on the news about Tiannamen and the great things that the internet was doing for democracy. The world after all, had a right to those images and as terrible as they were every newstation found a way to decry the brutality and praise the pictures.

    Without equating the two morally, I wonder at the treatment of images leaked from Iraq by modern media and the control entrenched powers have to stifle reporting.

    I think it is the supreme court steps that read Eternal Vigilance is the cost of Liberty, Thomas Jefferson. It is frightening that the atmosphere in Amerca today is so in favour of censorship. Without information we cannot be vigelant. We may not like what we see, but sometimes thats the point!
  • Countermeasures (Score:3, Interesting)

    by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @09:59PM (#9097209)
    If I were someone interested in reducing the impact of these and future pictures, I'd create a bunch of outrageous-but-more-or-less-easily-detected fakes and flood the system with them. As the fakes were discovered and debunked, suspicion would arise regarding any still photograph, until Gresham's Law takes effect and the bad eliminated the good. If there were scores of "war crimes" photos released each day, soon no one would pay attention any more, and the real ones would likely be ignored or at least be strongly doubted.
  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @10:07PM (#9097257) Homepage Journal
    Transparency in government means you don't have trust the people, because you can trust the process to keep them honest. In an Opaque government it's not enough to trust the Man at the Top, you've got to trust EVERYONE under that Opaque shield.

    The latter has something to do with why we're in the current mess.

    The same holds for business, considering the opaque bookkeeping behind some recent scandals.

    The concepts of Transparency vs Opacity are slightly different terms, but should be familiar to Open Source coders when considering security.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 08, 2004 @10:17PM (#9097309)
    If you did not yet hear about or read these sites :

    Read how a Baghdad citizen felt about the preparations and during the war Salam Pax - Where is Raed ? [blogspot.com].

    Read about an Iraqi girl who lost her job and her hope for the future Riverbend - Baghdad Burning [blogspot.com].

    Read what an Iraqi female engineer tells about what's happening in Bagdad now A Family in Baghdad [blogspot.com].

    Read what an Iraqi architect has to say Raed in the Middle [blogspot.com].

    And in a slightly related note :

    The Stanford Prison Experiment [prisonexp.org] documents an experiment that had to be aborted after only 6 days, because of abuses.
  • by AchilleTalon ( 540925 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @10:19PM (#9097323) Homepage
    is making its way on Slashdot. Digital cameras have nothing to do with instant news widespreading. First, this is a bad example, the pictures were taken at least three months ago. Second, they were first published by the NYT. Third, even the NYT never certified the authenticity of any of them. Fourth, without satellites digital cameras would be almost useless for any such thing like instant news reporting.

    And, I can remember a certain 9/11 2001 where old style cameras were pointed at the WTC and I could see it crashing down in realtime. The images were guaranteed authentic in almost no time.

    So, this thread is pure bullshit!

  • by spaceman harris ( 646958 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:26PM (#9097651)
    I know that this story hints at the biggest issue of the last few days in a coy way, but I have to say something. Karma be damned.

    One day far from now Rumsfeld will be close to meeting his Maker, reflecting on his life. At some point I hope he realizes that there was a reason that the Geneva Convention was created. He might note that it protects our troops from torture, and that torture is an ineffective tool to gain information. He might also, for one moment, actually re-evaluate the decisions he has made over the last few years and ask: why?

    But perhaps not, a man who shakes hands with Saddam months after he uses chemical weapons on the Kurds obviously sleeps well at night for some twisted reason.
  • by tehanu ( 682528 ) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:52PM (#9097770)
    First - the bright side of thing is that army procedures at least are working somewhat - as in there were actual investigations even without publicity (though when the punishment for what the army itself calls "murder" is just being thrown out of the army and never serving any jail time...). However, this seems to be going on *despite* the Pentagon leadership who tried to minimise their scope and people's knowledge of them as much as possible within the boundaries of existing law and is more a testament to the strong structures put in place by previous Pentagon leaders and previous lawmakers rather than any real care for human rights of the current ones (who probably see them as more hinderences to their goals than anything else). This is why we need strong rights and checks and balances in a democracy. This example also shows the need for a strong free press in a democracy. What we are seeing are that the democratic structures in the US that previous generations laboured to put in place are still working.

    Now, onto the bad side.

    Personally, one of the things I find most repellent about the Pentagon's reaction to this issue is that they seem to see this more as a PR disaster then a humanitarian disaster. Of course they are making noises about how terrible it was blah, blah, blah. But Rumsfeld also complained mightily in his recent interview about how annoyed they are they are restricted by "peacetime rules" and hence can't control the dissemation of photos and videos on the web from servicemen and so the photos are getting to the media first without being vetted by the Pentagon.

    "We're functioning in a - with peacetime restraints, with legal requirements in a wartime situation, in the information age, where people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon."

    As a result there have been mutterings of increased censorship of servicemen from the Pentagon. Before the photos came out, they tried to suppress the details of the information as much as possible without being able to be accused of doing something illegal eg. press releases released at times they know no-one will be paying attention (an old government trick) with only the barest details (not even the names of the soldiers accused nor any real details of the crimes). Nor was there any attempt to inform Congress at all (even though they were having high level meetings with Congress just a few hours before the photos were published and the Pentagon had known about it for ages as they asked CBS to delay broadcasting them during the fighting at Fallujah). Is it just me, or does *everything* about Iraq seem to shock Congress nowadays? "We didn't know anything!" seems to be their standard response. They are getting to be pretty useless as one of the 3 branches of government. The report about the prison abuses that was leaked to the New Yorker is defined as "Secret" even though the Pentagon admitted there was no real reason for it to be so.

    Also the fact that they are trying to pass this off as a few rogue soldiers rather than a systematic problem (which is something their own report and the Red Cross make clear). It almost seems as if the major problem is not that what happened happened, but the fact that the mass media actually found out and are making a big story about it. Now, let's hang some soldiers as scapegoats, make a few noises about "being sorry" and hope it all goes away without us having to make any real changes so we can go back to doing the same thing as before.

Air is water with holes in it.